Thursday, January 23, 2020

PHOTOGRAPHY WITH AVAILABLE LIGHT



St. Paul, Minnesota Winter Carnival 1992 Ice Castle
Plaubel Makina, Anticomar 100mm f/2.9
Agfacolor Optima 100, 10 sec, f/2.9


By Heinz Richter

This terminology is self-explanatory; photography with whatever light is available.  During daylight hours, this is no problem.  Difficulties arise when light levels are quite low.  Under such circumstances faster lenses or higher ISO settings often become a necessity.  With film, higher ISO settings generally are accompanied with coarser grain and ISO 3200 is a limit that is hard to overcome.  Here digital technology offers considerable advantages with some cameras offering ISO levels many times higher.

This has created another performance evaluation besides camera resolution in megapixels.  Some individuals are definitely of the opinion that a camera isn’t worth considering unless it excels at super high ISO levels.  There is definitely an advantage to be had, but are levels of 100 thousand ISO or more really necessary or helpful for that matter?

I have been involved in several discussion about this and thus have come across examples where anything less than 10 thousand ISO just doesn’t cut it.  My enthusiasm of this is far more measured, but then I don’t photograph black cats in a coal mine very often.

 "Boltergasse" Barntrup, Germany
Linhof Technica 70, Schneider Symmar 100mm f/5.6
Ilford FP-3 10 minute exposure
Digitized with Leica Digilux 2

 Lou Bellami, Penumbra Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota
Leica M6, 135mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M
Ilford XP-2 Super, ISO 800

The beginning of my photographic education is solidly anchored in the film days.  Over the years I have certainly done my share of available light photography, yet rarely did that necessitate ISO levels higher than 800 or 1600.  As a matter of fact, I am hard pressed to imagine a photographic situation where anything substantially higher is necessary, although I should add that the coarse grain of very fast films is often used as an artistic element.

 
Children's Day Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Leica Digilux 2
ISO 400, 1/20 sec f/2.1

 Newton Fork Ranch, Hill City, South Dakota
Leica Digilux 2
ISO 100, 1/2 sec f/2

 
Lake City Marina, Lake Pepin, Minnesota
Leica M8, 15mm f.4.5 Voigtländer Super Wide Heliar
ISO 160, 1/362 sec f/8

Weilburg, Germany
Leica Digilux 2
ISO 400, 1/4 sec f/2.1

 
Leica M5, 50mm Noctilux f/1
Kodachrome 25, 1/30 sec f/1

I have always tried to keep film grain as small as possible which is the very reason why I used to shoot quite regularly with film speeds of ISO 25.  Obviously, that is quite limiting.  Combining small grain with a variety of film speeds led me to chromogenic films, mainly Ilford XP-2 and its successor, the XP-2 Super.  Unlike other black and white films, these have the advantage of offering a relatively wide range of ISO settings without the need of developing adjustments.  I regularly used the XP-2 and XP-2 Super at ISO ranges from 100 to 800. This would be of no consequence if there were no apparent difference.  However, at lower sensitivity setting these films display a noticeably finer grain.  Since no development adjustments are necessary, there is the advantage of being able to change the film sensitivity as needed and take advantage of the finer grain at the lower speeds, all on the same roll of film.


Office Building Minneapolis, Minnesota
Leica Digilux 2
ISO 100, 2 sec f/11

Minneapolis
Sinar 4x5, 
Kodak Ektachrome
Digitized with Leica Digilux 2

 
Brentwood Estate, Alexandria, Minnesota
Leica Digilux 2
ISO 100, 1/8 sec f/2

 
Private Japanese Garden, Plymouth, Minnesota
Leica Digilux 2
ISO 100, 1/2 sec f/2

 
"Tecco"
former principal violinist St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, St. Paul, Minnesota
Leica R4. 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R
Ilford XP-2 Super, ISO 800

Of course such considerations are of not much consequence with digital cameras.  Here we can change sensitivity setting at will, although the greater noise at relatively high settings, which does look very much like film grain, is something to consider.  Thus I still follow my old habit of using relatively low ISO settings in order to get the most out of my cameras and lenses.  With my digital cameras that generally is ISO 100 or 200.

Available light photography is considered by most as photography under relatively low light levels.  This naturally can result in fairly slow shutter speeds unless higher sensitivity settings are utilized.  Of course a tripod can be of great help when slow shutter speeds are necessary, although no tripod can overcome the need for faster shutter speeds with fast moving subjects.  I also consider a tripod very restrictive in the way I can use a camera.  I much prefer to use my cameras hand held.

Cindy Hillger, Don Shelby
Live Newscast WCCO TV Minneapolis, Minnesota
Leica M6, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M
Ilford XP-2 Super, ISO 800

Venice
Leica M8, 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit
ISO 2500, 1/2 sec f/2.8

 
Venice
Leica M8, 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit
ISO 1250, 1/15 sec f/2.8

 
Venice
Leica M8, 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit
ISO 1250, 1/11sec f/2.8

For that reason I still employ the old formula that I learned in the film days, to use as the slowest shutter speed a setting which is the equivalent of the focal length of the lens.  With other words, the slowest shutter speed that the average person can safely hand hold with a 50mm lens is 1/50 (1/60) sec.  Subsequently, 1/250 sec would be the slowest with a 250mm lens, 1/30 sec with a 28mm etc.  This approach has served me well over the years.  Obviously there are times when this would lead to underexposure.  In those cases, bracing on a solid object will allow handholding the camera at lower shutter speeds.

Would higher ISO settings be of an advantage?  Of course!  As long as the image quality does not substantially deteriorate, why not?  But I would not make high ISO capabilities a major factor when deciding on a camera.  As long as my camera equipment offers good performance at ISO 1600 or 3200, I feel unrestricted.

Finally, I must comment on another advantage of digital cameras.  With relatively long exposure times, they don’t display reciprocity failure.  This is a definite problem with most films and, unfortunately, it differs from film to film.  As a rule of thumb, we can safely assume that reciprocity failure is of no consequence with exposure times up to one second.  After that the exposure response is not linear anymore and films require an increase in exposure.  Unfortunately, there is little choice than to consult the reciprocity information that should accompany the film.

Don Stolz
Old Log Theater, Excelsior, Minnesota
Leica M6, 50mm f/2 Summicron
Ilford XP-2 Super, ISO 800

All in all, photography in low light is no problem, as long as we take the necessary measures to overcome the problems associated with this.  Digital photography has the added advantage of allowing to experiment without adding to the cost of film and processing.  The results can be outstanding photographs, much beyond the usual daylight snapshots.




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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

LEITZ PARK MAIN BUILDING : AN ARCHITECTURAL MASTERPIECE AND ICONIC BUILDING EPITOMIZING LEICA VALUES



Andreas Kaufmann, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Leica Camera AG and main shareholder of the firm. He was the driving force in the creation of the amazing Leitz Park Main Building, whose construction needed three years of intensive work. 
© jmse

By José Manuel Serrano Esparza

A few years after saving Solms based Leica Camera A.G from bankruptcy in 2005, when he became Chairman of the Supervisory Board and shareholder of the firm, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann (a visionary man with remarkable entrepreneurial talent and utterly grasping the huge historical, technological and photographic values embodied by Leica brand throughout its existence) craved for returning Leica to its Leitz former home, that´s to say, to its birthplace in the city of Wetzlar, where in 1914 a genius called Oskar Barnack had created the Ur-Leica prototype camera, which added to the Leica 1 Model A (first mass produced 24 x 36 mm format Leica camera launched into market) introduced at the Leipzig Fair of 1925, would mean a revolution in world photography, in synergy with the top-notch lenses created by Professor Max Berek.

And after managing to incredibly turn Leica Camera A.G into a highly profitable concern within the photographic digital market in an exceedingly short period of six years (between 2006 and 2011), whose turnings points were the design and manufacture of the Leica S2 medium format camera (featuring the best photographic lenses ever made, created by Peter Karbe) in September of 2008 and the Leica M9 (first 24 x 36 mm format digital rangefinder camera in history and able to use not only the most modern highly luminous aspherical Leica M lenses but also non aspherical Leitz primes dating back to 1954) a year later, in September of 2009, it dawned on the charismatic Dr. Kaufmann that it was time to come back to Wetzlar (after almost three decades in which the firm headquarters had been in Solms since 1986) and keep on expanding Leica Camera A.G until becoming one of the leading-class firms of the digital photographic industry.

But to fulfill that goal it was necessary to create a building whose architectural design should be a reflection of the Leica company´s ethos, so the immense challenge was put on the shoulders of Gruber + Kleine-Kraneburg Architects,

Martin Gruber, the internationally acclaimed architect who along with Prof. Helmut Kleine-Kraneburg designed the Leitz Park Main Building as Headquarters of Leica Camera AG. 
© jmse

a highly experienced firm in the inception of unique edifices with a pretty independent attitude and whole commitment in everything they do, striving upon achieving a corporate identity through the interaction of light, space, proportion, color and beauty as conceptual core, to give each building its very own aura.

And the main materials chosen were concrete and glass, as key ingredients to get a sense of permanence and precision, visible and perceptible in the smallest detail by both Leica Camera A.G workers and visitors from all over the world.

It was a kind of new beginning, transforming the brand into a tangible experience.

© jmse

This way, with his remarkable insight and in-depth knowledge of market circumstances, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann made a far-reaching investment through his ACM firm to create

© jmse

the Leitz Park Main Building in the outskirts of Wetzlar (Germany), encompassing a space of 27,000 square meters.

© jmse

And from the very instant of its inauguration on May 23, 2014, the landmark Leitz Park Main Building in Wetzlar (Germany) became the flagship construction ever built in the photographic realm, replacing the famous and also iconic Pentacon Ernemann Tower from 1923 (created by architects Emil Högg and Richard Müller in the Striesen suburb of Dresden) on top of the podium.

© jmse

Left area of the main façade of Leitz Park Main Building, showing the concave and convex surfaces with concrete and glass bestowing it its unique appearance. This is the most exotic area of the building and conceptually related to the mythical Parador Ariston designed by the Bauhaus Hungarian architect Marcel Breuer in Mar del Plata (Argentina) in 1948, with curved shapes enabling as much glazing as possible along with a great entrance of solar light, so an integrated and permanent visual contact with the surrounding landscape is attained from inside.

© jmse
                                                                     
These rounded contours were clearly inspired by

a) The shapes of Ur-Leica prototype, screw mount and M mount Leica cameras that made up the Leica legend in the analogue halcyon days of the brand during XX Century, a tradition that has been followed by digital 24 x 36 mm format rangefinder cameras like the Leica M9, Leica M Monochrom, Leica M240, Leica M10, Leica M10-P and the APS-C format ones Leica T, Leica T2 and Leica CL.

b) The photographic lenses and sports optics in which Leica brand has excelled for more than one century.

© jmse

The very beautiful inner spiral staircase of Leitz Park Main Building, one of the highlights of this stunning edifice making pant anybody beholding it for the first time.

© jmse

Another view of the left area of Leitz Park Main Building façade. The beauty of the concrete (which was subtlety imbued with color to look like stone by Gruber + Kleine-Kraneburg Architects) is indescribable, as happens with the top quality glass filling its upper area with two rows of rectangular vertical windows and its lower one with large glass panels framed by thin black painted stainless-steel bars.

© jmse

On the other hand, the whole building takes advantage of new technological breakthroughs, like 22ºC warm water running through pipes in its walls, ceilings, floors and columns, cooling the building in summer and heating it in winter, which in symbiosis with geothermal tubes located under the parking lot and photovoltaic panels on the roof enables the building to generate most of its power in a sustainable way.

© jmse

Left lateral area of Leitz Park Main Building, whose façade area boasting rounded shapes can be seen on far right.

The accuracy and perfection with which every detail was tackled by Gruber + Kleine - Kraneburg Architects is praiseworthy. And once more, the winsomeness of this very special concrete is a visual relish for every visitor, with the added bonus of textures, colours and nuances changing depending on the day hour, being particularly alluring at dawn and during the sunset.

© jmse

There are tons of architectural passion in this milestone building steadily enhanced by available light and which wasn´t conceived from scratch as something inert, but like a living entity with personality of its own to spare.

© jmse

It´s a kind of back to the future abridging a glorious analogue past with a new digital course through a seamless transition, nowadays embodied by first-class products like the Leica M10, Leica M10-P, Leica Monochrom, Leica SL, Leica S3, Leica CL and others which have been instrumental in the thriving rebirth of the firm, resting on second to none optical prowess featured by world-class lens designers like Peter Karbe, Dietmar Stuible, Sigrun Kammans, Michael Hartmann and top class engineers like Stefan Daniel, Jesko von Oeynhausen, Maike Harberts and Peter Kruchewski, whose work has resulted in the creation of the new Leica 24 x 36 mm and APS-C format digital cameras, without forgetting the seminal work made by Stephan Schultz (Director of Leica Business Unit Professional) and Karin Rehn-Kaufmann (Director of Leica Galleries International).

© jmse

Café Leitz, a charming area for having breakfast and lunch as well as indulging yourself with the superb German breads, beers and cakes. It is located only a few meters from the Leitz Park Main Building façade and is named after the legendary Ernest Leitz II, the German entrepreneur and owner of Ernst Leitz Wetzlar photographic firm, who gave the go ahead to Oskar Barnack´s Ur-Prototype in 1914 and the Leica 1 Model A (first 24 x 36 mm format camera to be produced in series) in 1925.

© jmse

Longitudinal view of the lateral left side of Leitz Park Main Building. The sober elegance of both curves (reminiscent of some buildings of Bauhaus and International Style architecture featuring minimalist philosophy along with undecorated surfaces) and straight lines is a treat to watch, in the same way as happens with the light reflected on the glass surfaces of top windows and the lower big glass panels.

The bending areas of this zone are also related to Bruno Paul´s Department Store in Berlin from 1930 and the New Objectivity Movement in German Architecture embodied by Erich Mendelsohn and its Schocken Department Store in Stuttgart from 1928.

© jmse

Detail of the lateral left side of Leitz Park Main Building, showing its farthest half area studded with vertical straight slim bars of concrete joining the two much larger main surfaces of this stuff, all of it being supported by the massive glass panels growing from the ground and reflecting the surrounding trees, generating a chromatic surge.

The geometrical thoroughness of this edifice is truly impressive, and the stretches with profusion of straight lines greatly follow Mies van der Rohe´s keynotes regarding perfect symmetry, space, clarity, simplicity, minimalism, neat rectangular lines and high-quality materials, like in this image in which the gorgeous allurement of the first-class concrete and the sumptuous luster of the green tonality of the reinforced glass panels together with the vertical lines work like a charm, in harmony with their pure and simple shapes.

© jmse

Detail of the top area of the right round tower of Leitz Park Main Building façade near dusk.

© jmse

Right lateral area of Leitz Park Main Building near sunset. The tonalities of concrete can substantially change depending on the hour of the day, and become a riveting sight, specially at daybreak and at dusk, when its texture stands out and the quality and direction of light are the best from a photographic viewpoint.

© jmse

Longitudinal view of the right lateral side of Leitz Park Main Building taken a few minutes before sunset from the farthest point to the round tower, visible on lower left area of the image, beyond which part of the Ernest Leitz Hotel can be glimpsed.

© jmse

Middle zone of the same right lateral side of the Leitz Park Main Building taken from a perpendicular position a few seconds before the night. Some king size enlargements made on baryta paper of some iconic pictures of the History of Photography can be seen, among them the famous one depicting Heavyweight World Champion of Boxing Muhammad Ali photograph made by Thomas Hoepker in 1966 in Chicago (United States), Men Looking at Women Inside the Ministry of Health in Río de Janeiro in 1960 by René Burri and the portrait of a girl wearing a green headscarf in Peshawar (Pakistan ) in 2002 made by Steve McCurry.

© jmse

Longitudinal diagonal view of the same right lateral side of the Leitz Park Main Building a few seconds before night. The magic of the place is enhanced to the utmost by the intense blue sky of Wetzlar, the fading textures of the concrete surfaces and the brightness of large glass panels and king size iconic images lit by LED lights.

© jmse

And the icing of the cake is the huge globe in the middle of the roundabout beside the right rounded tower of Leitz Park Main Building. It was a gift given to the city of Wetzlar by Dr. Andreas Kaufman and the Leitz Park Corporation to the city of Wetzlar.

In the background can be seen the Ernst Leitz Hotel, a new facility built to attend the hundreds of thousands of people who annually arrive in Wetzlar (Germany) to see Leica Camera A.G Headquarters.



For other articles on this blog please click on Blog Archive in the column to the right

To comment or to read comments please scroll past the ads below.

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